Joey Parent hits the trail in Forest Hill Park. Credit: Hunter Davis
Few Richmonders know and love the Falls of the James River, and the parks and trails that surround it, like Hunter Davis and Joey Parent.
The two met 10 years ago at VCU, helped start a kayaking club there, and have been friends ever since. While their journeys took them to places like Durango, Colo. and Asheville, N.C. for work and play, they both eventually found their way back to their hometown and they river they love. Parent is the leader of VCU’s Outdoor Adventure Program, and Davis works for the ACAC Fitness Center in Short Pump, is a outdoors-focused filmmaker, and the proprietor of Home on the James.
For years the two had batted around the idea for a kind of triathlon uniquely suited to Richmond.
“(It’s) something (that’s been) floating around,” Davis said. “Living in Richmond just lends it self to making that decision whether you want to go kayaking or trail running or mountain biking. Being in Richmond, you can do it all in one day. And everything is centered in one place. It’s just easy.”
“We’ve been talking about it for so long we realized that if we didn’t just do it, it wasn’t going to happen,” Parent said.
Thus, on the morning of November 8th, will be born the first-ever King of the James — a trail run/mountain bike/whitewater kayak race that is more about celebrating the fact that it can be done right here in the middle of a city than it is about the time or the winners. The race is free, and, importantly, it can be done individually or as a three-person relay team.
“I think that’s actually going to be a pretty big category,” Parent said, of the relay, noting that the number of people willing to run downtown rapids like Hollywood and Pipeline is limited.
But if you’re a mountain biker or trail runner and you know someone who can paddle Richmond’s famous whitewater, you’ve got yourself 2/3 of a team.
The race starts at the grassy area by the Reedy Creek boaters’ put-in. From there runners will go through the tunnels under Riverside Drive and do a lap in the Forest Hill Park singletrack. Mountain bikers will then take over and do what I like to call the Butterbank Loop: the Buttermilk and North Bank Trails with the Nickel Bridge and Belle Isle connecting them on either end. Paddlers will then put in at Reedy and run down to the 14th Street takeout, where they’ll be shuttled back to Reedy.
“I don’t enjoy kayaking more than mountain biking. And I don’t enjoy mountain biking more than trail running,” Davis said. “You can do them all right out your front door, if you live in the city. It just shows that the James River is a destination where you can come do all three sports.”
Parent added that T-shirts will be for sale for about $10 and there’ll be an after party at a yet-to-be-determined destination.
Sounds like a pretty sweet event to me, one that’s quintessential Richmond, not to mention a chance to bond with like-minded outdoors people. And considering it’s free…well, let’s just say we here at RichmondOutside.com will definitely be fielding a team.